Salt cedar has always been somewhat of a problem, with low water levels, it is even more prevalent.
Salt cedar has always been somewhat of a problem, with low water levels, it is even more prevalent. (Mark Engebretson)
With the water level at Possum Kingdom Lake and others steadily falling, an invasive species has reared its ugly head — salt cedar.
Along sandy shores, salt cedars sprang to life. At Sandy Beach, the south shore was covered, but Brazos River Authority officials cleared those. At North D&D the salt cedars also flourished. Some of those were also removed.
Residents at PK will also find them along the now exposed lake bed.
“If the homeowner would like to remove salt cedars or any other type of brush from around their boat docks or in front of their property, they may do so manually by cutting the trees down or by using lawn equipment,” noted Judi Pierce, BRA information officer.
Salt cedar beetles can strip a salt cedar, however, experts say it takes two to three years before this will kill the plant.
Salt cedar beetles can strip a salt cedar, however, experts say it takes two to three years before this will kill the plant. (Mark Engebretson)
“However, if they would like to use a motorized piece of heavy equipment such as a tractor, they should contact the lake office for a  permit. Motorized vehicles are not allowed in the lake bed.”
According to a number of sources, Salt cedar, Tamarix ramosissima, grows five to 20 feet tall. Smooth woody stems are reddish brown, turning gray and cracked as the tree ages. Leaves are small, scale-like, and give the slender stems a wispy green appearance. Flowers are pink to white, blooming from spring through late summer. They are very attractive and, from a distance, look like pink feathers at the end of the stems. Range is generally in the western part of the state along streams and rivers. Salt cedar was introduced from Eurasia.

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“Salt cedar is one of the most invasive, hard-to-control woody plants in the world,” a Texas AgriLife fact sheet noted. “Introduced from Eurasia into the western United States in the early 1800s, this plant rapidly spreads along rivers, lakes and streams. Once established, it quickly chokes out desirable vegetation. Most important, salt cedar can draw water from underground aquifers — as much as 200 gallons per plant per day.”
Scientists have looked at a natural way to eventually kill salt cedar — the salt cedar beetle.
Salt cedar beetles from Uzbekistan were released in 2006 by Dr. Jerry Michels and his entomology crew in parts of Lake Meredith and the Palo Duro Canyon, it was thought they would be more prolific eaters of salt cedar than other beetle species tried before.
But Michels said even with this kind of die-back of the salt cedars, it will take two to three years of defoliation to kill the trees completely.
Beetles have been reported at PK Lake.
“Regarding the salt cedar beetles, the BRA has joined the Texas Farm Bureau and Texas Agrilife in a salt cedar eradication project that will utilize salt cedar beetles,” Pierce reported. “On a recent trip to the PK area, one of the Texas Agrilife crew found salt cedar beetles already exist in the upper reaches of Possum Kingdom Lake. They are not native to Texas but are found readily in the Pecos area  They were not purposefully introduced to PK by the BRA or Texas Agrilife as part of the program and appear to have shown up on their own. It does appear, however, that they are being successful in some areas.”
For more information, contact the Palo Pinto County Extension Office at 940-659-1228.